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King’s Lynn traders back the Queen as Europe goes to war

PUBLISHED: 09:26 04 December 2018 | UPDATED: 09:31 04 December 2018

Chloe Phillips, of Norfolk Records Office  Picture: Contributed

Chloe Phillips, of Norfolk Records Office Picture: Contributed

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Volunteer historians working on a new project transcribing King’s Lynn historical records have discovered a letter to Queen Anne from a time when Europe was not just arguing, but actually at war. Chloe Phillips, from Norfolk Records Office, reports.

An engraved portrait of Queen Anne Picture: Norfolk Record Office (Y/C 2/15)An engraved portrait of Queen Anne Picture: Norfolk Record Office (Y/C 2/15)

In 1700, Charles II of Spain died without a son and his choice of heir, Philip, grandson of the French king, was not to the liking of the English, Dutch or Austrians.

They favoured the Archduke Charles, son of the Holy Roman Emperor, and formed a “Grand Alliance”’ to back his claim.

In 1701, fighting broke out, and the War of the Spanish Succession began.

By 1706, the Alliance had forced the French army back within its borders and, in May, won a decisive victory at the Battle of Ramillies. Their commander, the Duke of Marlborough, now had the upper hand, pushing on and capturing most of the Spanish Netherlands, or as we now know it, Belgium.

Sir Winston Churchill, famous descendant of the Duke of Marlborough, who succcessfully commanded Alliance forces in the War of the Spanish Succession Picture: Bettmann ArchiveSir Winston Churchill, famous descendant of the Duke of Marlborough, who succcessfully commanded Alliance forces in the War of the Spanish Succession Picture: Bettmann Archive

The Duke of Marlborough was John Churchill, later described as Britain’s finest general by his most famous descendant, Winston Churchill. In 1704, Marlborough had also triumphed at the Battle of Blenheim (his reward: a palace of the same name near Oxford).

In the midst of this turmoil, King’s Lynn Town Council wrote to “the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty”. The letter begins with reference to the “happy Revolution” – or as we know it, the Glorious Revolution – when Anne’s sister, Mary, and her Dutch husband, William of Orange, overthrew their Catholic father, James II.

It continues: “Under Your Majesties Reigne of Wonders, Who is Raised by Providence to Extricate Us out of the greatest Difficulties, And to put a hooke into the Nostrills of that great Leviathan who hath soe long sported himself upon our Waters.”

With continental trade a vital part of Lynn’s economy, it is easy to see why the town’s inhabitants were concerned about the French “sporting” on English waters and keen to hook their noses.

The flattery continues: “It is Your Majesties Genius that Inspires, ‘Tis Your Choice that Enables Your brave General the Duke of Marlborough to make our Streets Thus often resound with the Joyful Noise of Victories…”

It goes on to mention another hero of the day, “our Brave English Peterborough”, a reference to Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough, who had captured Barcelona in October 1705.

The English held the city for 16 months, defeating several attempts to expel them – as the council conceded, it was proving “.. as Difficult to Preserve as Gaine…”

By 1710, the Allies had been expelled from central Spain. With casualties and costs mounting, the Allies began to disagree. When the Tories came to power that year, they vowed to end the war.

In 1712, the British ceased fighting, and in 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht recognised Philip as king of Spain.

The letter ends by saying: “Yo[u]r Ma[jes]tie is the best Protector as well as the greatest Ornament and Benefactor of our Established Church… And If any party… should Endeavour to Insinuate any Groundless Fears… It is Endeavouring to Alienate & transfer from Your Ma[jes]tie the Affection of Your Subjects and their just Dependency on Your Person Soe It is to Robb us of Our Peace & Quiett.

“That Yo[u]r Ma[jes]tie may be alwayes feared & honoured abroad Beloved and Reverenc’t at home…Soe may bee deemed unworthy the name of an Englishman That doth not heartily say Amen.”

After 100 years of troubles that had seen civil war, Puritanism, and an invasion by a foreign prince, it was perhaps best for Lynn to ensure that it was in the good books of the current sovereign.

To find out more about the online project which uncovered the letter, visit https://tinyurl.com/ZooKLBA or follow the link

from the www.archives.norfolk.gov.uk For more information about the contents of the letter, visit https://norfolkrecordofficeblog.org

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